Having just returned from Iowa, I can report that the state is as flat, cold and snow-covered as ever. It’s also filled with a lot of political junkies and just plain decent folks who are beginning to focus on the quadrennial role they will play in picking the next president of the United States.

By way of a disclaimer, I was out there supporting Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySeveral factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Small Florida county that backed Trump one of two targeted by Russians: reports Foreign Relations senators demand Iran briefing MORE, who I endorsed a couple of weeks ago.

I got there as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s balloon was taking off and left as the air was steadily leaking from it. In fact, his lead of 15 or 20 points has already dropped to five or six and will probably drop a bit more before the caucuses meet. That makes Iowa on the Republican side a two-man race between Huckabee and Romney, with the others — from McCain to Thompson and Giuliani — hoping to pick up whatever crumbs these two might leave for them.

Romney, of course, has spent more money in the state than anyone and, more important, has assembled a working grassroots organization that none of the others can even pretend to match, but he has a fight on his hands as Huckabee’s people are self-motivated and many will turn out for their man without much of an organization.

The interesting aspect of the Huckabee surge has been its effect on the rest of the field. Romney seems to be holding virtually all of his support, but in the early days of the surge the other candidates’ support simply collapsed. Since then as Huckabee has begun to slide some of the support that Thompson and McCain lost is coming back to them and some of it is moving over to Romney.

Still, as the holidays begin to dominate Iowa and people tune out of politics to focus on arguably more important matters, I suspect that Huckabee will still have a single-digit lead on caucus night and we’ll see whether hard work and organization can best the flavor of the month.
Keene is chairman of The American Conservative Union, whose website can be accessed here.